Short History of the St. Augustine Easter Parade
2019 marks the 60th Annual Easter Parade in St. Augustine and the first time the parade will be held on the Saturday before Easter. The parade will step off at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2019, beginning just north of the Mission Nombre de Dios and continuing south on along the bayfront to the Plaza de la Constitución. This popular hometown parade features pirates, soldiers, horses and carriages, and the “Royal Trio” from 17th-century Spain, all of which you might expect in a city with over 450 years of history.
Residents of the city are familiar with the yearly festivities, but many visitors may wonder how the parade came about, and who are those people in the fancy Renaissance style clothes?
The Easter Festival first started around 1902 with various small events and festivities. In the early 1950s, St. Augustine was faced with a drop in tourism during the first part of the year. In order to bring more visitors to town, the City of St. Augustine asked Eleanor Barnes, a local genealogist, to help bring historical significance to the Easter festival and parade.
Mrs. Barnes traveled to Spain to do some historical research on the Minorcan population in St. Augustine and its ties to European royalty. Her research led her to the significant historical impact of the Castillo de San Marcos, and the amazing woman who commissioned it – Queen Marianna of Spain.
The rulers of Spain in 1672, including Queen Marianna, are important because of their early involvement in the city. Funding the construction of the Castillo played a vital role in preserving the city. For many, the fort is considered to be a contributing factor to the city's survival throughout history. In order to honor and pay tribute to the Queen and the royal family responsible for it, including King Carlos and Princess Margarita Maria, the city of St. Augustine decided to create their own royal trio.
This trio consists of residents with ties to the Minorcans or the early Spanish in St. Augustine, who are chosen to portray Queen Marianna (a woman aged 35 to 40), King Juan Carlos ( a boy 11 to 14), and Princess Margarita Maria (a girl 15 to 20). The Royal Trio is crowned early in the year a couple of weeks before Easter and they then preside over major events in the city during the Easter Festival, with their biggest appearance being in the Easter Parade. The Royal Trio represents the city of St. Augustine throughout the country, attending festivals, parades, and events in other U.S. cities.
It's considered an honor and a privilege to serve in the Royal Trio, and it's a tradition that has now existed since the first trio was chosen for the Easter Festival in 1959, with a new trio being chosen every year. The City of St. Augustine hosts the parade, but it is the original contribution of Eleanor Barnes and the Easter Festival Committee to the whole week of festivities that brings so many to St. Augustine each spring.
The Easter Parade continues to grow in popularity, and has been a major source of recognition and revenue for our city. It is run completely by volunteers, so if you're interested in helping to keep this tradition alive, consider giving some of your time to the Easter Festival Committee by visiting them here or by calling (904) 669-1485.
If you're a visitor, don't be surprised if you see the royal family in full dress at Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, at the Blessing of the Fleet, riding in the parade, or promenading in the Plaza de la Constitución on Easter Sunday. Just wave and smile because you're in the presence of St. Augustine royalty. Click here for more info on all the Easter Week festivities in our Calendar of Events.
Cover photo courtesy of Jackie Hird.
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